Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Finding a bike inner tube in Germany when shops are shut or just a bike shop

When we are touring we always try to set off with at least one spare inner tube per bike. If we have more than two punctures we try to buy another tube. Murphy's Law will then come into play and the odds are that we'll need a spare inner tube once shops have shut. However the well organised Germans have a cure for this. Many German bike shops have Schlauchautomaten (bicycle inner tube dispensers) similar to cigarette machines but healthier, fitted on an outside wall. The next question then arises where do we find a bike shop? Schwalbe, the German tyre and inner company has supplied our local bike shop with signposts so that strangers can find their way to the shop and the inner tube dispenser. These signs can also be used to find a bike if your bike needs  repairing. A good idea and an excellent bike shop.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Biking/Bicycling/Cycling in Berlin

We went to the CMT (Caravans, Motor, Tourism) Exhibition in Stuttgart last weekend. This is a major exhibition and runs for 9 days starting on a Saturday. Over the first weekend, one of the eight halls is reserved for outdoor holidays: Hill walking, mountaineering and all aspects of cycling. There are three halls packed full with stands offering information on more general tourism.  The other halls feature caravans, motor homes and tents. From what we could see the motor homes seem to be featuring more and more comforts of home such as lifts and underfloor heating (a slight exaggeration, but not much) with lorry sized extra springing and shock absorbers. We spent most of our time in the cyclist and walkers' hall, but did a have quick peer in one or two of the more general halls. Cycling is now a major selling point for holidays in Germany and by Germans. As an example, Thomas Cook AG, a very important player in the German travel industry is offering worldwide cycling holidays on the German market, but not for the British market. Just about all of the tourist regions in Germany and many western European tourist regions were represented. Up to a third of the information available was about cycling. More and more Austrian, German and Swiss holiday regions are offering tailor made cycle touring holidays with  hotel booking, luggage transfer and optional bicycle/e-bike hire which is ideal if holiday makers don't speak German and do not wish to fuss booking a number of hotels.

The Berlin tourism website has a section about cycle  touring in Berlin: fahrrad.visitberlin.de. It comes up in German, but click on the language list on the top right hand corner to find the English version. The website offers route information and information on thirty cyclist-friendly hotels and hostels which are tailored to meet cyclists' needs:

  • Cyclists needing just one night's stay are welcome
  • Secure overnight bike storage free of charge, but please check with the hotel for details!
  • Room to dry out clothes and gear
  • Breakfasts rich in vitamins and carbohydrates or the option for cooking facilities
  • Regional cycling maps provided
  • Information about guided city tours
  • Bike repair kits for minor repairs & maintenance
  • Directions to the nearest bike shop for major repairs
  • Advice on booking environmentally-friendly return journeys by public transport
These resemble the ideas behind the ADFC Bett und Bike website and service, which has 46 places to lay your weary head from holiday flats, campsites, hostels to hotels throughout greater Berlin. There may be some overlap between the two lists.
All of the hotels and hostels on the Visit Berlin list have bikes for hire.
Cyclists can download suggestions for tours in Berlin from komoot.de and use an app available from Google Play Store or iPhone App Store on their smart phones to navigate.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Hire Bikes on the Rhine in Marckolsheim, Alsace, France

 The Tourist Information Office in Marckolsheim has stable touring bikes and e-bikes to hire for half a day, a full day or for a week.
Tourist Information: Office de Tourisme** de Marckolsheim et Environs 13 rue du Maréchal Foch, T : 03 88 92 56 98, E: marckolsheim(at)grandried.fr, W: http://www.grandried.fr/en/leisure/bicycle-rentals.htm, Half daily, daily or week long hire €12 per day for adults and €8 per day for children

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Comparing ADFC Route Quality Ratings

The ADFC, the German cycling club has started a rating system for cycle routes. These are mainly in Germany but a few are in Austria. We wrote about these last year. Since then more routes have been added. We will write about these shortly.
We were glad to see that the Tauber Valley Classic Route along the floor of the valley received a five star rating, but surprised to see that the Romantic Road Cycle Route only received three stars. The Romantic Road joins the Tauber Valley Classic Route for 70 of its 420km. We looked at the results in detail:
We have cycled both routes often. What struck us was that the Romantic Road got much lower values in four areas:
  • Ease of riding. It is true that the Tauber Valley Route has just about no barriers with only one flight of steps and thus deserves the 5 stars. There are some barriers on the Romantic Road. It is the longer route by far.  We don't think it deserves such a low marking.
  • Surface: The Romantic Road has some stretches that are not tarred, whereas the Tauber Valley route has far fewer, but the former is much longer.
  • Sign posting. We don't think the Romantic Road sign posting is poor. We have never had problems following the route. Sign posting can be improved easily, but it is the responsibility of local authorities, rather than the Romantische Strasse Touristik Arbeitsgemeinschaft GbR, the tourism body responsible for marketing and coordinating activities along the whole route.
  • The route design. This has a low weighting and it is not easy to assess.
We suspect that there will be improvements in the above areas which will improve the ratings of the Romantic Road Cycle Route.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

On pavement (sidwalk) and on cycleway parking in Viernheim

I was interested to read in our local paper this morning that the town council has issued a request to motorists to take more care in parking in the older parts of the town with very narrow streets. The available road is then often less than 3.20m wide. Emergency vehicles and the like it would appear, are having problems getting past vehicles parked opposite each other.
In addition because of this problem of narrow streets, parking with two wheels on pavements (sidewalks) is tolerated, but motorists are supposed to leave a 1m gap between the car and the wall to allow pensioners with wheeled Zimmer frames, wheelchairs, pram pushing mums and children under eight on bicycles to pass without hindrance. Children under eight must use the pavement by law. This gap of 1m is often ignored. At the moment these children are forced out into the road.  The town council requests parents, teachers etc.  make the law clear to any motorist they find parking so that the pavement is blocked. This might however lead to unpleasant scenes. German motorists are not amused when one points out that they are wrongly parked.
In addition cycleways are often  regarded as a parking place.
I suspect a campaign by the town's parking wardens issuing tickets would be more effective. Even though it might well be political suicide for any council taking this course of action.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Using empty shops as bicycle garages in Vienna

We spent some time in Vienna last year. We didn't take the Brompton folding bikes. In fact we didn't cycle at all. Viennese public transport is superb with frequent underground trains, trams and buses, so there was no need to cycle at least for the ten days or so we were there. However the Viennese city fathers are encouraging cycling and there was an exhibition in the Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst (Austrian Design Museum) on classic bicycles where I also picked up a copy of "Cycling Affairs: Smarte Ideen für Rad & Stadt" (Clever ideas for bikes in the city) published by the Creative Agency of the city of Vienna. The book discusses the prizewinning suggestions in a design competition on cycling in cities. There are over 400 suggestions displayed in the book. We are not going to discuss all of them, but some of the ideas deserve publicising further.
The winning idea was to use a number of small empty shops as bicycle garages, called Rad WG - bicycle flats or apartments, where bicycles can be stored safely and, warm and dry, protected from the weather. Participants would receive a chip card to get into the rooms. These offer room for bike storage with video camera surveillance, a basic workshop and an information terminal. A smart phone app could be used to show where room is available nearby. These bicycle storage areas would also act as meeting place for cyclists to swop ideas and receive or give advice.
A big problem seems to me to be the question of who owns the shop. Who would pay the rent?  The chances of success when cyclists have to pay rent are low. Mannheim station has a parking garage for bikes in an old baggage dispatch hall next to the station which costs 30 cents a day for a monthly ticket. I think it does reasonably well, but the station square is littered with bicycles chained to fences. Not all of these bikes are old clapped out bikes for the city that are unattractive for thieves. In Britain at least perhaps one could use the former public libraries which are being shut down at every opportunity.

Blog Archive